Skip to content

The meaning of “dunce” is considered to be a stupid or slow-witted person, as its history and association with the dunce cap has been negatively portrayed. However, when it was created, this cap was considered to be a symbol that was used by respected scholars.

History of National Dunce Day

Hailing from Duns, Scotland, John Duns Scotus seems to have been the creator of the “dunce cap” who was a scholar and a Franciscan priest. The idea of the tall, pointy hat, in the mind of its creator, was that it would inspire the flow of wisdom. In fact, this may have been the inspiration for the association of pointy hats with wizards!

The term “dunce” was likely derived from the fact that the followers of this scholar were called “Duns men”, which naturally turned into “dunce”. Duns made a huge impact on modern thought and was a vital voice throughout Europe in the middle ages.

However, as John Duns Scotus’ philosophical and religious theories were popular during his life in the 1200s and early 1300s, they moved out of favor in the 1500s in favor of more humanistic views. And the pointy hat became a sign filled with negative connotations and shame. Some teachers would even use it to embarrass children who did not perform well or were not acting properly in school.

The observance of National Dunce Day on November 8 coincides with the death of the medieval scholar after whom it was named, John Duns Scotus.

How to Celebrate National Dunce Day

Get involved with celebrating National Dunce Day with some of these ideas:

Don a Dunce Cap

Perhaps John Duns Scotus was onto something when he thought that wearing a tall, pointy hat would allow for wisdom to flow better through the brain. So take National Dunce Day as an opportunity to test this theory and enjoy the fun of wearing a tall, pointy hat. (Plus, you can always tell people it’s because you’re a wizard!)

Host a National Dunce Day Party

Invite a bunch of friends, coworkers or family members over to host a party in honor of National Dunce Day. Dunce hats might be an optional part of the costume for the event. Activities might include a reading of some of the writings of John Duns Scotus.

For snacks, perhaps make cookies in the shape of triangles for dunce caps, or graduation caps for an ironic twist. Entertainment for the party might be to watch a classic film that features some all-star dunces, such as Dumb and Dumber, Raising Arizona, or Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion. 

Learn Something New on Dunce Day

Don’t let National Dunce Day get you down! Spend the day doing the opposite of being a dunce and chose to learn something new. Head over the local library to find a plethora of resources that allow for education and learning. Watch a documentary to learn something new, or even hop onto YouTube to learn some historical information or try out a new skill.

Also on Tue Nov 8th...

View all holidays
Tue Nov 8th, 2022
Tue Nov 8th, 2022
Tue Nov 8th, 2022
Tue Nov 8th, 2022
View all holidays

Find your birthday!

Find out what else is happening on your big day.